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AKIRA: Book One

Katsuhiro Otomo, Author
Katsuhiro Otomo, Author . Dark Horse $24.95 (364p) ISBN 978-1-56971-498-0
Reviewed on: 05/07/2001
Release date: 01/01/2001
Paperback - 363 pages - 978-1-935429-00-5
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Originally serialized in Japan between 1981 and 1993, Otomo's 2,000-plus–page science fiction epic Akira was reprinted as a monthly comic book in the U.S. in the early '90s. This new six-volume series is the first time it's appeared as an English-language graphic novel. Set in Tokyo 38 years after its destruction in World War III (which, according to this story, happened in 1992),Akira eventually evolves into a philosophical investigation of time. But this first volume is all action, nonstop car chases and gun fights strung together with exaggerated speed lines and lots of gigantic machinery. The complicated plot revolves around two teenagers in a motorbike gang that encounters a strange child with an old man's features. When one of the young bikers begins manifesting violent, supernatural powers that threaten to destroy him, both bikers find themselves enmeshed in a massive conflict between two sinister agencies (which both believe they're fighting to save the world) over some unnamed thing so terrifying it's locked away in a vault and frozen to absolute zero. Akira has been praised for "massively decompressed storytelling"—a few seconds of story time can take pages—and Otomo's hyperkinetic black-and-white drawings explode across the page. The translation is sometimes a bit awkward, although it still expresses the story's visceral force. The book has been adapted into an animated film that's a favorite among anime fans. (May)

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